What to do this fall in Asheville, North Carolina

Fall is the perfect time to plan your trip to the beautiful Western North Carolina region. Nestled in the foothills of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a great starting point for exploring various daytrips throughout the region. A huge lineup of seasonal events, vibrant fall foliage, scenic drives, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, mild weather, waterfalls galore – all these factors contribute to the WNC area becoming more and more popular with leaf peepers and adventure lovers with each passing year.

As soon as the summer season wanes down, the forests begin to display a dazzling palette of colors. Nature lovers and artists from around the world come here to soak up the beauty of the autumn hues and breathe in the cool fresh mountain air. Because of the diversity of elevation in the mountains, the WNC region sees one of the longest lasting fall seasons in the country.

Serene creek views along the Catawba Falls trail in North Carolina
Autumn at the North Carolina Arboretum
Asheville Botanical Garden in the fall
Bright foliage along the Catawba Falls trailhead in North Carolina
Fall foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The colors generally peak sometime around the first or second week of October, oftentimes lingering throughout much of November. Because each area sees peak color at different times, there is always at least one leaf peeping destination at any given time.

Here are 10 fun ways to get into the fall spirit in Western North Carolina

1. Stroll around the Botanical Gardens of Asheville

Autumn at the Asheville Botanical Garden
Fall at the Asheville Botanical Gardens

A walk around the serene Botanical Gardens is a must anytime of the year – even more so during the colorful fall season. The best part of all, admission is totally free! Although quite small at just 10 acres, a walk around the gardens is a nice break from the city. The small non-profit has been around for 58+ years. To this day, the staff at the botanical gardens is still dedicated to preserving native plants.

  • Location: 151 W .T. Weaver Blvd, Asheville, NC 28804
  • Hours: Sunrise-sunset

2. Enjoy a cup of coffee as you gaze at the fall foliage

Great coffee at Izzy's Coffee Den in Asheville, North Carolina
Great coffee at Izzy’s

Asheville offers no shortage of fantastic local coffee shops. While no fall season is complete without at least one trip to Starbucks’ for their trademark Pumpkin Spice Latte, several Asheville shops offer their own version of fall’s best indulgence. Malaprop’s Cafe and Old Europe both offer a tasty seasonal latte. Old Europe also offers the additional bonus of freshly made pastries – try the seasonal pumpkin cheesecake!

Or better yet, simply enjoy a quality cup of coffee at any local coffeehouse. Many shops feature a beautiful patio where you can enjoy the fall ambiance.

Fall foliage in Asheville, North Carolina
Beautiful views of the bright foliage via the patio at Izzy’s

Izzy’s Coffeehouse, located in a cozy house just west of downtown, offers a nice little patio. Take a seat outside and enjoy the lovely weather and colorful trees. The beans are sourced from top roasters like Stumptown and Counter Culture. Izzy’s is by far the best place in town for a high quality coffee in a charming setting. Other great coffeeshops include: High Five (best bagels in town), Sweeten Creek (cute setting in an old house), and Fletcher Village Bakery (awesome homemade bagels & treats).

  • Location: 976 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC 28806
  • Hours: 7:30am-6pm

3. Take a hike

Hiking the beautiful Catawba falls trail in North Carolina
Leaf peeping – it’s free, a great workout, and incredibly scenic. So many wonderful trails to consider near Asheville!

While the city of Asheville itself is not a hotspot for hiking, there are numerous national forests and state parks within a reasonably close drive. Whether you are an avid hiker, or simply seeking a quick, quiet nature stroll, options abound throughout the region. The weather this time of year is just perfect (relatively dry with temps in the 60-70 degree range) for exploring the outdoors. The Catawba Falls trail, a moderate 2 mile trek, features a 100 foot waterfall. At just a 25 minute drive, it’s one of the closest waterfalls to the city.

While everyone has heard of the extravagant Biltmore Estate, many do not know that there are 22 miles of trails on-site, most of which are blazing with color each autumn. Graveyard Fields is another favorite with both visitors and locals due to the great leaf peeping opportunities & beautiful waterfall views. Perhaps the best of all is the Triple falls trailhead at Dupont State Forest. A relatively easy hike leads you to 3 scenic waterfalls. Being in the company of the beautiful hues of the season makes a fall hike that much better. Staying close to town, the North Carolina Arboretum, located 15 minutes away in Arden is a leaf peeping hotspot. Enjoy 10 miles of maintained trails plus a world-class bonsai garden.

Autumn at the North Carolina Arboretum


  • Catawba Falls trailhead – 3074 Catawba River Rd, Old Fort, NC 28762
  • Graveyard Fields -Milepost 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Dupont State Forest -Staton Rd Cedar Mountain, NC 28718
  • North Carolina Arboretum – 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way

4. Attend a fall festival

Fall Fine Arts Festival in downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Downtown Asheville hosts many art related events, especially during the early autumn season

Asheville offers an endless lineup of festivals throughout the year. You will find a particularly interesting assortment of seasonal fun as soon as September rolls around.

A few of the best-of-the-best for getting into the fall spirit include Oktoberfest, the Brewgrass Festival (sample over 100 craft beers), the Asheville Holiday Parade (a festive annual celebration held the Saturday before Thanksgiving), the Apple Harvest fest (a celebration of all things apple in the charming small town of Waynesville), and Cider Fest NC (sample craft cider along the French Broad River). Be on the lookout for the October Fine Arts festival located in lively Pack Square (pictured above).

If you are looking for something a bit more active, there are a handful of festive Halloween and Turkey Trot 5ks. Races are a great way to burn off some of those extra holiday calories!

Check out the monthly lineup of events in Asheville. 

5. Drive a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall foliage along the Rough Ridge trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway in late fall

The Blue Ridge Parkway, commonly referred to as “America’s favorite drive,” stretches on for 469 miles, connecting Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The drive is incredibly scenic, and thus, heavily visited throughout the year. Despite the traffic, autumn is by far the best time to take in the beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains.

A brief glimpse of the Parkway near the peak of autumn (Oct. 2021)

Points of interest include scenic overlooks, hiking trails, waterfalls, picnicking areas, and the Biltmore Estate. The immense variety of attractions means you can choose between a quick sightseeing ride or a multi day outing, depending on how much time you have and how far you are willing to drive!

Must-see sights within a relatively short drive of Asheville:

  • Linville Falls– A scenic, moderate hike to a 90 foot waterfall.
  • The Folk Art Center – A fantastic museum dedicated to Appalachian arts.
  • Chimney Rock State Park -Challenge yourself to a 499 step climb up the rock for amazing panoramic views of the region.
  • Rough Ridge hike & overlook – Beautiful views of Grandfather Mountains. Amazing fall foliage.
Linville Falls along the Blue Ridge Parkway
Beautiful Linville Falls – North Carolina’s most stunning waterfall

Although it’s a bit out of the way at nearly 2 hours, the mile high suspension bridge at Grandfather is definitely worthy of the drive!

Blue Ridge Parkway planning guide

6. Pick out the perfect pumpkin at a local farm

Pumpkin patch at Grandad's Apples in Hendersonville, North Carolina
Pumpkins galore at Grandad’s Apples

Nothing says fall quite like taking a hayride out to the patch and searching for that perfect pumpkin. So skip the pre-picked pumpkins at the supermarket in favor of a fun old-fashioned outing to the farm. Luckily, there are no shortage of family-run farms and orchards in the area. A few of the best include Grandad’s Apples & Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard in nearby Hendersonville and Hickory Nut Gap farm in Fairview.

In addition to pumpkin patches, many of these farms offer other seasonal activities like apple picking, corn mazes, haunted houses, and more. And, of course, you can enjoy plenty of fall treats like apple cider, apple cider donuts, and candy apples!

Warm apple cider donuts on a crisp fall day!

7. Check out an incredible waterfall

Fall foliage surrounding the beautiful Catawba Falls in North Carolina
Catawba Falls during the colorful leaf peeping season

The Western North Carolina region is loaded with gorgeous waterfalls, most requiring no more than an easy nature stroll to see. Those looking to avoid a hike might want to consider one of the many roadside options. With more than 250 waterfalls, the area is appropriately nicknamed the “Land of Waterfalls.” Most of the stunning falls are located within Transylvania County (home to the highest concentration of waterfalls on the East coast). Nevertheless, there are beauties scattered throughout the western portion of the state.

Looking Glass falls near Brevard is the best bang-for-your-buck option as this waterfall is not only stunning, but also one of the most easily accessible roadside falls in the state. Another great option nearby is the Triple Falls trailhead at Dupont State Forest. A short hike of just over 2 miles leads you to 3 peaceful waterfalls, one of which was featured in “The Hunger Games.” Dry Falls and Whitewater Falls are 2 other scenic option which require no more than a 1/2 mile RT trek.

A full guide to the best easy and moderate waterfall hikes near Asheville

8. Plan a daytrip to Grandfather Mountain

Mile high suspension bridge at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina
Stunning views via the suspension bridge at Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain, one of the highest peaks in the Blue Ridge mountains, is a place renown for its’ challenging hiking terrain and spectacular vistas. At a mere hour and a half drive from Asheville, this trip is well worth the journey while you are in the area. Grandfather Mountain is most famous for a mile high swinging suspension bridge which looks out unto the mesmerizing mountains.

Besides walking across the bridge, there are over 12 miles of hiking trails, scenic overlooks, a small zoo, and a great visitors center. Fall is a really great time to plan your visit as the foliage is quite spectacular. Nevertheless, a trip here is still recommended anytime you are in the area!

Location: 9872 Highway 105 South, Banner Elk, NC 28604

More info on Grandfather Mountain

9. Stroll around downtown

Downtown Books and News in Asheville, North Carolina

Downtown Asheville continues to receive praise for its’ lively & continuously expanding foodie scene. New restaurants continue to open up and old favorites continue to draw in repeat locals and tourists. The streets are lined with eclectic restaurants, craft breweries, coffeehouses, funky shops, local boutiques, museums, and numerous attractions.

Downtown is the perfect place to take a stroll during the fall season as beautiful colorful trees surround the lovely historic buildings. The diverse offerings, artsy vibe, and art deco buildings have earned Asheville the nickname “Paris of the South and “San Francisco of the East.” During the month of October, there are numerous seasonal events to take part in. From ghost tours, to haunted trolley tours, to special screenings of Hocus Pocus and other Halloween classics at local theaters, there really is something for every Halloween lover out there.

Downtown Asheville events calendar

10. Dine with a view

Gorgeous views from the Blue Ridge Artisanal Buffet at the Omni Park Grove Inn in Asheville, North Carolina
Amazing views via the floor-to-ceiling windows at the Blue Ridge Artisanal Buffet at the Omni

The Omni Grove Park Inn hands down offers the most spectacular views of the Blue Ridge mountains in the city. The mountainous scenery surrounding the resort is absolutely breathtaking. Whether or not you are staying at the resort, you should plan for a visit, if anything, just to take in the mesmerizing mountain scenery.

The Blue Ridge Artisanal Buffet is one of the best breakfast destinations in town. First off, the scenery via the floor-to-ceiling windows is incredible all year-round, but even more so during the dazzling autumn season. Second, the buffet spread is quite impressive, and includes made-to-order omelets, a chia seed pudding bar, a doughnut bar, and much more! You really cannot beat the ambiance and breakfast offerings here!

Breakfast buffet at the Omni Park Grove Inn in Asheville, North Carolina
A few of the enticing selections on the breakfast buffet!

Location: 290 Macon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804